JERUSALEM (Jan. 27)
Maj. Sood Haddod, the leader of the Christian militia in South Lebanon, warned today that a 5000-man contingent of the “Palestine Liberation Army” has just recently taken up a position between Beirut and the Litani River. Haddod claimed, the force was armed with tanks and heavy artillery and that its deployment was undertaken in coordination with the Syrian command in Lebanon.
Syria itself confirmed over the weekend that it has strengthened its troop concentration in Lebanon. Israel had reported such a buildup last week. Cabinet Secretary Arye Noor said today after a Cabinet Defense Committee meeting that Israel is watching the situation along its northern borders carefully “and with great interest.”
Observers here noted that the stepped-up Syrian military activity coincides with President Hafez Assad’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the arrival in Damascus today of Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. They also noted that it coincides with the formalization of normal relations between Egypt and Israel.